Kairos: Episodes 3-4 Open Thread
With all the groundwork laid last week, these episodes plunge our protagonists Seo-jin and Ae-ri immediately into an increasingly dangerous race against time. Things are getting more complicated as Ae-ri tries to change Seo-jin’s past, and they begin to realize that even those closest to them are hiding secrets. As they each try in their own way to track down leads, the stakes are rising, danger encroaches, and it seems they’ve got even less of a window to solve this than they thought.
EPISODES 3-4 WEECAP
Kim Jin-ho, who blames Seo-jin for the amusement park accident that killed his daughter, grudgingly gives the police information about how he killed Da-bin and where he left her body; they recover only her clothes and teddy.
Seeing Seo-jin have to face all that was about as brutal as I was expecting, and I still wasn’t ready to actually experience it. Huge and endless props to Shin Sung-rok for his incredible, heartbreaking performance here—I was almost worried he was about to keel over a few times.
Then there’s Ae-ri’s mom, whose mysterious visitor was Kim Jin-ho after all, as I speculated last week. Once Ae-ri makes that connection, she’s even more determined to hunt him down, and she has not one but two narrow escapes from murder. (I do have one complaint: why does she always go to suspicious addresses alone at night, right before her daily call with Seo-jin?! At least go in with updated intel!)
The first time, Kim Jin-ho would have killed her if it weren’t for Seo-jin’s timely warning to Gun-wook, who had Ae-ri’s phone. Although Seo-jin’s assistant LEE TAEK-KYU (Cho Dong-in) certainly has sufficient murder eyes too, and he’s clearly marked Ae-ri on his Villain To-Do List now.
But it’s certainly a twist to see that Ae-ri’s (almost) murder the next day seems completely unrelated. We don’t know exactly how it would happen, but given that Ae-ri nearly walks in on Hyun-chae and Do-kyun’s tryst, one or both of them might have killed her—and Do-kyun certainly seems to be cold enough for it. And worryingly, he’s not worried about hiding that from Seo-jin anymore.
I had to gird my loins to press play on Episode 3, for the stress and heartache I knew was coming my way. (Especially with my state of mind this week, given the US election.) But once I did, I was immediately glued to my screen. Kairos is highly enjoyable despite being somewhat predictable, and that’s down to its tight, fast-paced writing, skilled directing, and excellent acting.
I love the way the sound design builds atmosphere and tension for every strikingly framed scene—the perfect balance between sound, silence and a truly effective score in the exact moments that stop my breath and pump up my heart. I was particularly impressed with the direction in the scenes transitioning from Episode 3 to 4, with Seo-jin and Ae-ri momentarily in the same shot, and Seo-jin’s slow retracing of her footsteps with impotent horror as he sees the scene of her death, imagining her final moments as the audience actually sees both timelines together… and his relief as the remnants of bloody chaos slowly recede. SO well done.
That quality of execution is why I don’t mind that many of this week’s developments are unsurprising. Both Do-kyun and Taek-kyu are exactly as suspicious as we all thought last week, though we don’t know if they’re working together. Taek-kyu is clearly taking orders from someone, and it’s abundantly clear that something is fishy with the building materials that Do-kyun was in charge of handling testing for. Do-kyun also decisively did all the talking when the police came to question Taek-kyu at the office.
Obviously, Do-kyun has a hidden, vicious hatred of Seo-jin that’s been simmering under the surface, and came into clear relief this week. And y’all were right about Hyun-chae cheating on Seo-jin! Although it was with Do-kyun and not Taek-kyu. She does seem to genuinely love her daughter, though, and Ae-ri’s on the right track trying to approach Hyun-chae where she’s having zero success with past Seo-jin in listening to her pleas.
Things are getting very tangled indeed as Ae-ri and Seo-jin try to change their future/past from both ends. (And as I try to keep my tenses in order trying to describe the present, the past, alternate future timelines and what might have happened.) More people are going to catch on to their supernatural connection if they aren’t careful—I was very nervous when Ae-ri met up with Do-kyun, and I’m sure that interaction will come back to bite our protagonists soon. Ae-ri has also brought Gun-wook onto her team, if not necessarily into her confidence. I’m glad he saved her life, but he’s too weak-willed to be trustworthy when you have this many villains running around.
The tangled threads of past and present keep twisting, altering and re-knitting as Seo-jin and Ae-ri try to figure out what exactly they need to change to get their desired outcome. Despite that, I really appreciate that Kairos takes time for the character moments that can often get lost in the complicated plotting of time-travel thrillers. Kairos is Greek for “the opportune moment,” and that one minute at 10:33 allows Seo-jin and Ae-ri such a small window for live, urgent communication.
But on the other hand, there’s poignancy to the enforced waiting for that moment of connection. Ae-ri and Seo-jin have started using each other’s voicemail boxes as a sort of letter box, leaving messages they know will arrive on a bit of a delay. I appreciated Seo-jin’s apology for the way he treated her at their first meeting, once his memory headaches reveal the new past to him.
I also loved Ae-ri’s story in response, about what her dad’s number has represented to her, how the ritual of leaving messages for him on her own phone helped her cope with her loneliness growing up, and how nice it is to know someone’s on the other side now.
I doubt these two are headed for romance (I hope not), but as Ae-ri said, there’s clearly more to this connection than just random chance. I can see these messages between them becoming an outlet for things they can’t tell anyone else. There’s something about the out-of-time rapport they’re building that kinda gets me in the heart.
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